MLB To Add Negro League Statistics To Record Books

by Peter Candia

Fans of baseball—specifically fans of the history of baseball—have long been vying for the statistics of the Negro Leagues to be incorporated into the MLB stats database.

Now, MLB says they will do it. 

Prior to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, black and other non-white baseball players were barred from playing in the MLB. Because of this, statistics prior to integration are often looked at through a different lens considering that there were hundreds of MLB-level players who were simply not allowed to compete in the MLB.

Names like Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige had their starts in the Negro Leagues. But, for many baseball fans, the list of legends in the Negro Leagues goes much deeper than just the guys that ended up playing in the MLB post integration.

Josh Gibson is a name that comes up often—who is sometimes referred to as “The Black Babe Ruth.” Gibson played a 14-year career without ever touching the MLB. In the Negro Leagues, he put up ludicrous numbers like a career .373 average, .718 slugging and a monumental 1.176 OPS. Unfortunately, Gibson would die in 1947 at the young age of 35—the same year the MLB integrated. Had he not been barred from playing due to the color of his skin, and had he not died so young, it is often assumed that Gibson would be considered as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. In fact, to many (including myself), he already is.

With the integration of Negro League statistics into the MLB database, Gibson will become the all-time leader in several categories: average (surpassing Ty Cobb), slugging (surpassing Babe Ruth) and OPS (also Babe Ruth). Gibson also now holds the single season batting average record with a ridiculous .466 in 1943 for the Homestead Grays. 

This actually isn’t the first time MLB has decided to add other league’s statistics into its history books. In 1969, the MLB decided to add stats from the American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890) and Federal League (1914-1915). 

Still, there are some people upset with this new decision, citing a lack of talent in the Negro Leagues when compared to the MLB, as well as the shorter seasons (only 60 games compared to 162 in the MLB). However, a shortened season in 2020 is included in record books, so many don’t see the difference.

The realities of racism extended beyond common life and into leisure. America’s pastime barred a significant portion of players from ever stepping foot in the Major Leagues for far too long. Though the wrongs of baseball’s past will never truly be made right, integrating the stats of the Negro Leagues and opening up the world of black baseball throughout the game’s history to the masses is a good start. 

Now, kids will grow up learning about Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson. Walter Johnson and Satchel Paige. Ty Cobb and Chino Smith.

That’s a good thing. 

About the Author/s

All posts

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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